Tuesday, May 24, 2016

R100: Pacific Northwest Racing Teams - PacWest Racing

Mark Blundell's PacWest Racing Reynard 97i Mercedes. (Image source: Bing.com  images)
Out of nowhere, Dominic Dobson re-energized his Open Wheel Racing career by helping form the Pacific Northwest's most prolific IndyCar team...

Team info
Name: PacWest Racing Group
Owners: Bruce McCaw, Tom Armstrong, Dominic Dobson
Location: Indianapolis, IN
Years: 1993-2002
Wins: 5

Whilst PacWest Racing Group's majority owner was arguably Bruce McCaw, one of the four McCaw Brothers, with Craig, Bruce, John Jr. and Keith making their fortunes initially upon selling their McCaw Cellular business to AT&T for over $14 Billion dollars; Aye Karumba!

Nonetheless, the racing team was a "Group" effort which I know for certain involved Issaquah's Tom Armstrong, an avid Vintage Racer who owns one of the five revered Corvette Grand Sports! And the team's initial driver, aka Dominic Dobson.

Yet for reasons unknown, I've mentally Squirreled away the name of the fourth Musketeer of the ownership group incorrectly!

Dominic Dobson
Birthplace: Stuttgart, Germany
DOB: September 14, 1957 (Age: 58)
Years at PacWest: 1993-98
Total Indy 500 starts: 7
Best I500 Finish: 12th
Years: 1988-94

Having lost his drive at Bayside Disposal Racing at the end of 1990 in favour of Jeff Andretti, Dobson floated around between the Daytona 24hrs race and a few other IMSA outings, albeit primarily One-offs' at Mother Speedway with Burns Racing, who for 1993 took delivery of the year-old ex-Galles Racing's Galmer G92 Chevrolet chassis which Dominic qualified 27th and soldiered home in 23rd.

Following this outing at the Speedway, Dobson and the Galmer became property of PacWest Racing Group which appropriately made their debut at their symbolic racing ground, Vancouver, BC's Molson Indy where Dobson finished 14. As the team would attend two more races that year: Mid-Ohio where Dominic failed to qualify, and the season finale at Laguna Seca before ramping up for a proper full season campaign in '94.

Dominic and rookie team-mate Scott Sharp, this year's defending Rolex 24 and 12 Hours of Sebring winner would contest the entire season aboard brand new Lola T94/00 Ford XB's, with Dobson scoring his career best finish at that year's Marlboro 500, a fantastic third place result at Michigan International Speedway behind winner Scott Goodyear and runner-up Arie Luyendyk.

Yet the pair would be replaced by bigger "Name" drivers in order to attract sponsors, showcase the team and ultimately grow PacWest for the future. As Sharp would go off to the rival IRL, becoming the series vice-champion in its inaugural season while Dominic would return a year later for two further seasons as one of PacWest's two Works Dodge Stratus NATCC chauffeurs...

1993-94  Dominic Dobson; Germany
1994  Scott Sharp; USA
1995  Juan Fangio II; Argentina (4 Races*)
1995-2001  Mauricio Gugelmin; Brazil
1995  Danny Sullivan; USA
1996-2000  Mark Blundell; UK
1996  Teo Fabi; Italy (3 Races*)
1999  Roberto Moreno; Brazil (8 Races*)
2001-02  Scott Dixon; New Zealand
2002  Oriol Servia; Spain

Juan Fangio II replaced Danny Sullivan for end of season after 'Ol Hollywood (Sullivan) suffered a broken pelvis during the Michigan 500, which effectively ended his IndyCar career.

Teo Fabi Deputized for Mark Blundell after the Bloody Brit broke his foot & ankle during a high speed crash in the Rio de Janeiro race before returning to action for remainder of season beginning with that year's U.S. 500. Then Roberto Moreno Deputized for Blundell from rounds 5-12 in '99, who'd suffered another injury.

PacWest's breakout season came in 1997 when the team's two former F1 Pilotes' came tantalizingly close to scoring the team's maiden victory at Belle Isle, where both drivers ran dry of petrol; Err Methanol, with Mark Blundell coming within one corner of victory!

Yet from the ashes of defeat, ironically, and most Apropos, Blundell swept to victory off the final lap's drag race to Thy chequered flag at most symbiotically Portland International Raceway, which in theory could be deemed the team's Home track!

As that was a Wet 'N Wild race if I can recall I-T correctly, since I was indeed there and Blundell swept to victory on a drying track over a slower Gil de Ferran and eventual third place finisher Raul Bam, Brama! Bosel in the closest ever 1-2-3 finish, a scant 0.027 seconds, eclipsing 'lil Al's narrowest margin 'O victory in the '92 Indy 500!

Blundell would go onto record two further victories at Toronto and Fontana, finishing a career best sixth place in the overall points standings, which would be the team's high-water mark. Whilst B-I-G' MO, aka Mauricio Gugelmin would score his lone IndyCar victory at the team's other symbolic Home track Up North Eh! At Vancouver, BC's Pacific Place temporary street course around Downtown's BC Place Stadium and Science World venues.

With Mauricio's win, the team claimed four wins for the season - and expected to continue their march upwards, perhaps even audaciously challenging for the title? Yet it wasn't to be as three further seasons would pass without victory.

The team began making changes in the new millennium, most notably losing the services of highly respected team manager 'Ando, aka John Anderson who left for rival Team kOOL Green. While a future star took over Blundell's seat, upon the Englishman's retirement. Perhaps Y'all have heard of him? He's called the "Iceman," or better known as Scott Ronald Dixon!

Dixon would score the team's final victory in only his fourth race outing as a rookie at thee Andretti's home-track in Nazareth, PA before the team went into decline with Bruce McCaw pulling the plug just four races into the '02 campaign.

As I can only wonder what Oriol Servia felt after thinking he'd secured a fulltime gig for the season? As the team would be sold to some Catz' named "Smiley Face" and Craig Pollock, forming PK Racing, which became PKV Racing when "Top Jimmy," aka Jimmy Vasser joined Kevin Kalkoven first as the team's driver before becoming a fulltime co-owner in what today's known as KVSH Racing...